First came a listless 11-point home loss to Loyola Marymount in Friday's season opener. Next was sophomore center Joshua Smith's now-deleted postgame tweet lamenting losing to a Lions team he described as "straight bums." And finally there's Monday's news that UCLA forward Reeves Nelson has been suspended.
UCLA announced late Monday night that Nelson has been suspended indefinitely for "conduct unbecoming a member of the UCLA basketball team." Nelson's status with the program will be reevaluated later in the week once he and coach Ben Howland meet in person.
"This is a very disappointing situation for Reeves and our basketball program," Howland said in a statement released by the school. "We have a high standard and code of conduct that our student-athletes are expected to adhere to and Reeves has fallen short of our expectations."
Earlier in the day, Howland told the Los Angeles Times that he plans to meet with Nelson to discuss a variety of issues including the junior's demeanor during the loss to LMU. A source told ESPN Los Angeles that Nelson would be suspended for at least Tuesday's game against Middle Tennessee State and that his future with the program would depend on how he takes that news.
When asked by Yahoo! Sports on Monday afternoon to clarify his son's status with the team, Brian Nelson texted, "Our family will not comment at this time."
Nelson's fiery outbursts have been a recurring topic of conversation throughout his two-plus seasons at UCLA. His passion has the ability to inspire teammates and fans, but he also has let his emotion get the best of him sometimes, lashing out when things go poorly or sulking to the point of letting his defensive intensity and focus wane.
Regardless, if Nelson were to miss more than one or two games, that would be a tough blow for a UCLA team headed to the Maui Invitational next week. The Bruins open with host Chaminade but face either Kansas or Georgetown the second day.
Nelson, an all-league selection last year and UCLA's leading returning scorer and rebounder, tallied 13 points and eight rebounds against LMU. The Bruins are deep at power forward with David and Travis Wear and Brendan Lane, but none of those three is as skilled a scorer as Nelson.
- Ben Howland